42 is supposed to be the answer to the “Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”. 42 years ago, on 24.04.1973, two events changed the destiny of India: Birth of Sachin Tendulkar and Pronouncement of ‘View of the Majority’ in Kesavananda. The Kesavananda Bench of 13 Judges was composed of CJ Sikri, Justices J.M. Shelat, K.S. Hegde, A.N. Grover, A.N. Ray, P. Jaganmohan Reddy, D.G. Palekar, H.R. Khanna, K.K. Mathew, M.H. Beg, S.N. Dwivedi, A.K. Mukherjea and Y.V. Chandrachud. Six ‘Sikri-Led’ Judges held that the Amending Power was limited by various inherent and implied limitations in the Constitution. Six others held there were no limitations on the Amending Power of the Parliament. One Judge, Justice H.R. Khanna expressly rejected the view of the Six ‘Sikri-Led’ Judges. Justice Khanna held that the Amending Power was plenary in every sense, but the word ‘Amendment’ in Article 368, by its limited connotation, did not lend itself to abrogating the Constitution. Amendment to the Constitution had necessarily to retain the Basic Structure of the Constitution after the Amendment. That was the conclusion of only Justice Khanna. How then can it be said that Kesavananda was decided by a ‘View of the Majority‘ of Nine Judges that the Amending power of Parliament was limited by the Basic Structure of the Constitution?
42 years ago, on this day, it had been a day since Justice A.N. Ray has been sworn in as the Chief Justice of India No. 14. A Friday. There were 200 more Fridays before CJI Ray retired on 28.01.1977 – A Friday. And on 25.12.2010, 34 days short of completing 34 years of retirement, the year I start practicing, he ‘took it on the otherside‘. He was 99. Unbeaten.
“History is the cruelest judge and Justice Ray will be remembered as having presided over the Supreme Court during its darkest period” (See, Nani Palkhivala: The Courtroom Genius, 2012, pg. 152).
Post Script: 25 April, 1973